Inside the publishing industry

How do books get from the publisher’s hot little hands onto the shelves of bookstores? No, I don’t really know either but yesterday it became a little clearer.

Traditional publishers are part of a logistical chain.

From the sale of each book, every player in the chain takes their cut. However online sales, self-publishing and e-books have increasingly muddied the waters. Still, the typical chain – and the typical cut for each player – looks something like this:

How do books get from the publisher’s hot little hands onto the shelves of bookstores? No, I don’t really know either but yesterday it became a little clearer.

Traditional publishers are part of a logistical chain.

From the sale of each book, every player in the chain takes their cut. However online sales, self-publishing and e-books have increasingly muddied the waters.

Source: http://thomaswightman.co.uk/book-sculpture-drowning-from-obsession

Still, the typical chain – and the typical cut for each player – looks something like this:

  • Author: 10% (less their agent’s fee, which is typically 15% of that 10%. Bestselling authors get a slightly higher percentage)
  • Publisher: 30% (which has to cover editorial work, graphic design and marketing)
  • Printers: 10%
  • Distributors: 10%
  • Retailers: 40% (which seems like a lot until you factor in bookshop rent and salaries)

Traditional publishers don’t necessarily deal directly with booksellers, or certainly not with every bookseller in the country – they use distributors.  At Text Publishing, I guess through some sort of contractual arrangement, they use the distributors of the big multi-national firm, Penguin Random House.

Yesterday I visited the Melbourne office of Penguin Random House, to pitch my book to the distributors. Two other Text authors were there too (keep an eye out next May for Robbie Arnott’s novel Flames and Jessie Cole’s memoir Staying) as were Text Publisher Michael Heyward and an enthusiastic group of Text publicists.

It was kind of fun. There were probably about a dozen or more people squeezed into a small meeting room and each author was wheeled in, then out again, one at a time. Michael Heyward made some flattering introductory remarks and then I had about 10 minutes to talk about my book, and why I’d written it. Apparently having some insights into the story and its author helps the distributors sell the book to retailers.

It was something of a leap of faith for Text, who had never heard me speak and didn’t know what I was going to say. But the distributors were a friendly crowd, who helped by nodding and smiling and asking easy questions at the end. I think it went OK.

And if you’re the least bit worried about the state of international publishing houses, relax a little.

The picture above is of Penguin Random House’s Melbourne office (707 Collins St, Docklands). The office is enormous and gorgeous. To the left and right of the internal courtyards (there is definitely more than one) are tier after tier of open plan cubicles. I presume there are offices too – I wasn’t able to explore!

Text Publishing’s offices are far more modest, but still take up the whole top floor of a lovely art deco building in Melbourne, called Swann House (see photo at right).

By coincidence, my day-job company – always only a very small firm – had offices in Swann House during the 1990s. And to stretch credulity further, my day-job company subsequently moved from Swann House to a terrace house in Drummond Street, Carlton (which is where they were when I joined – we’ve since moved yet again). That house at 203 Drummond Street was the former premises of legendary publishers McPhee-Gribble. You wouldn’t read about it!

2018-03-25T00:38:49+00:00 November 10th, 2017|Work in Progress, Writing|17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. sharkell November 10, 2017 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Saw your book in the Text list of books to be published in the first 6 months of next year – how exciting!

    • sharkell November 10, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      PS I also liked the look of Flames and Staying – they were 2 standouts to me.

      • Michelle Scott Tucker November 10, 2017 at 9:24 pm - Reply

        They do sound fascinating – straight to the TBR pile with those! Both authors were charming, btw.

        • sharkell November 10, 2017 at 9:31 pm

          Nice to hear – I’ve read and enjoyed both of Jessie Cole’s books.

        • sharkell November 10, 2017 at 9:31 pm

          Nice to hear – I’ve read and enjoyed both of Jessie Cole’s books.

    • Michelle Scott Tucker November 10, 2017 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      Yep – super exciting. They really did do a nice job with that catalogue.

      • sharkell November 10, 2017 at 9:21 pm - Reply

        Yes, I was impressed with it too

  2. wadholloway November 10, 2017 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    It continually bothers me that a writer needs to be a good talker. Naive of me I suppose. Anyway you are, so that’s the main thing.

    • Michelle Scott Tucker November 11, 2017 at 9:42 am - Reply

      My view on this is pretty hard line. Writers can write anything they like, and never speak about it ever, if that’s what they want. But if they decide to sell what they write (that is, publish it) then they have to expect to meet the demands of the marketplace. Publishing is a choice, after all. I know someone who was definitely not a good public speaker but he had his heart set on a career where public speaking skills were a necessary entry requirement. So he learnt how to be a speaker (he joined Toastmasters, he practiced, he found mentors, etc). It took ages but he persevered. And now he is an OK speaker and, that (combined with his other skills) got him his dream job. Why should it be different for published writers?

      • wadholloway November 11, 2017 at 10:38 am - Reply

        Good answer! I’m too idealistic to think of the writer as businessperson.

      • whisperinggums November 11, 2017 at 8:25 pm - Reply

        Fair point Michelle. I know someone who joined Toastmistresses (I think there was a separate female one) for the same reason. Still, I would hate to think that we missed out on the Great Australian Novel because the writer was not a competent speaker.

        • Michelle Scott Tucker November 12, 2017 at 7:31 pm

          I’d like to think a fabulous book would still find an audience – whether the author was a good speaker or not. Publishers like a good speaker but they like a good book better!

  3. whisperinggums November 11, 2017 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Enjoying these insights as your journey continues MST. I can see you are enjoying all aspects of the process. Good for you.

  4. Gail Rehbein November 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Oh I love being a fly on the wall of your journey to publication 🙂 Thanks for the insights Michelle. They’re really enjoyable!

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